The Florida Gators (23-2, 4-1 SEC) needed one more win to tie a school record for consecutive victories but Kentucky hurlers Dustin Beggs and Justin Lewis were bound and determined not to let it happen.
Kentucky (16-6, 3-2 SEC) tagged Florida starter A.J. Puk for six runs, all earned, over 4.1 innings and evened the series with a 7-4 victory on Saturday afternoon.
Puk entered the game coming off a 7-inning, 11-strikeout performance against Missouri but surrendered a solo home run to Evan White in the first inning. Puk settled down and cruised through the next two frames with ease but Beggs matched him pitch for pitch.
Deacon Liput tied the game in the fourth inning with a two-out, solo home run but Puk fell apart in the bottom half of the frame.
Puk walked White to start the frame but erased the walk with a JaVon Shelby fielder’s choice. A walk to Gunnar McNeill brought Kevin O’Sullivan out to the mound, to little affect, as Puk gave up his second homerun of the afternoon when Dorian Hairston sent a line drive over the wall in left, giving Kentucky a 4-1 advantage.
The Wildcats put up another crooked number in the fifth. Back-to-back one-out singles chased Puk from the game and Frank Rubio was unable to get out of the jam unscathed. The first batter Rubio faced, JaVon Shelby, singled up the middle to score one and McNeill brought two home with a double down the left field line.
The Gators would make a run in the sixth, scoring three runs off Beggs before Lewis came in to get Kentucky through the rest of the way.
The loss is just the second for the Gators this season but a troubling start for Puk saw his record drop to 1-2 on the year and his ERA balloon from 1.88 to 3.49.
Florida will look for its first series win against Kentucky in four years tomorrow as Alex Faedo (5-0, 2.61) faces 6-7 RHP Kyle Cody (2-1, 6.95) on Sunday at 1 pm. Cody was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the second round of the 2015 MLB Draft but returned to school for his senior season. Kentucky has won the last three series against Florida and this will be the 11th season in a row the series is decided 2 games to 1.